Deep Blue Something
All of this really began with a phone call.
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Toby Pipes had left Sam Houston University for the University of North Texas, while his brother Todd remained to finish his final semester before looking toward graduate school. At some point during the fall of 1990, Toby phoned Todd suggesting that UNT be his destination since there were so many bands in the area, and the two might pick up where they had left off at the end of the prior summer in Huntsville.
Easy enough. On one of Todd's first weekends at UNT, Toby had dragged him down into Deep Ellum (Dallas' music and bar district where Blind Lemon Jefferson and others began their legendary blues careers) to see a friend of his play in a group called LoveSwing. Both brothers thought little of the band except for the drummer - who pounded away with such fury that at times the rest of the band couldn't be heard (which is actually when they sounded best). The blur of arms and sticks was John Kirtland. John was from Austin and when Toby had met him neither knew the other was a musician, which is good in its own way.
The Pipes brothers asked John if he would join them in their new group, and since LoveSwing's original drummer was fresh out of rehab looking for his old job back - he agreed to join Leper Messiah.
It was the end of summer 1991 and grunge was everywhere like some moldy cheese stinking up the place. The Lepers of course weren't grungy at all. "Its too hot in Texas not to bathe," the boys would quip when asked why Leper Messiah wasn't falling in line with the apparently flannel-based revolution. Oddly enough, it was because Leper Messiah didn't sound like everyone else that people came to see them - that and the fact that they were tight as a face lift even from the start.
The band would rehearse a minimum of five hours every single day in a storage warehouse on the edge of a cow pasture without heat or air-conditioning. The Lepers were always rehearsing even when the temperature was above a hundred degrees - which in Texas seemed like every day. The Leper philosophy was (and still is) that the songs should be second nature - like breathing - that way nothing will shake you during a show - fights, power outages, amps exploding, or even being too drunk to stand - even when you've passed out you still breathe don't you?
After a while, the trio wanted to fill out their sound and were looking to find a rhythm guitarist to complement Toby's electric flashes and Todd's ambitious bass lines, but sometimes another guitar is just another guitar in the mush of a live show.
On the band's favorite albums, an acoustic guitar in the middle of everyone bashing away always sounded amazing and powerful whether it was The Smiths or Pink Floyd, Bauhaus, or The Cure, Led Zeppelin, The Who or even Depeche Mode. The problem was that in a live situation it never really worked simply because of the lack of technology. In the late 80's and early 90's however, Takamine had produced an acoustic/electric that actually sounded good live. Keep in mind grunge was still king and people really weren't using them in a rock and roll environment much less as a featured instrument.
Enter Clay Bergus. Todd and Toby knew Clay through a friend - and since he lived in the same apartment complex, he was invited over to Todd's one afternoon for beers. Clay was originally a bass player and like Todd, had played jazz in bands throughout high school. He agreed to switch to guitar, marched down to the music store in Denton, bought an acoustic/electric and headed for rehearsal. During the shows, Clay also played some songs electric but the timbre of the acoustic mixed so well with the rest of the band that the unique Leper Messiah sound rapidly developed. The band was playing as many gigs as possible and rehearsing when there were no gigs to be found. Every single day. The band got better and better - and their following among the college crowd was beginning to raise the interest of club owners in Dallas and the surrounding areas. The band's show was polished yet always on the brink of absolute disaster. Some nights everything went smoothly, other nights John had to be pulled from fist fights and thrown onto the stage with the order of "play or go to jail." Todd had taken to wearing fireman's trousers and nothing else - a guy in the crowd at one show actually blew an alcohol fire on him to see if his get-up was fire proof. If Clay's amp didn't sound right he smashed it - and if Toby's didn't work he just stood there and drank until the gear cooled down enough to work again.
Through all of it though the music was perfect. Always. If the P.A. totally went out - the sound of the drums and guitars on their own still sounded good, always rolling along. Just like breathing.
Clay eventually left the group due to outside interests, but since the other three were so tight - the uninitiated didn't notice much - although there was an undeniable change in chemistry within the band. Guitar players came and went - playing the old parts and trying their best to keep up.
The band changed its name to Deep Blue Something - taken from an instrumental piece from the Leper days. A short time later the boys got a loan from a bank for $2500 dollars and went into a little studio in Denton to record Home. The rest of that story is even more amazing knowing it only cost $2500 dollars - Toby's roommate even did the artwork. The band released the record on Dallas-based indie label RainMaker Records and proceeded to sell over 16,000 units. The album got picked up by a major label and "boom" world wide success.
With a number one single in the UK and Top 5 in Europe, Australia and Asia. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (again carried over from Leper Messiah) took the boys on a trip that would lead them around the world. Halfway through though the band was starting to grow apart. Even with the success it wasn't like it had been. There's a big difference between a group and a band. A group is people working together - A band is sounding inexplicable. Music without having to map it all out. Jamming is second nature. Like jazz. Like breathing.
Clay was asked to join again just before the first European tour and from the first note everything was like the old days. Everyone doing their thing all together. Byzantium is Deep Blue Something's second album - Leper Messiah's first.
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